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Adventures in Taos

Adventures in Taos

Lola Dodge | Adventures in Taos

More than a month into my Taos stay, and I haven’t posted a single blog. I’ve been so busy hiking and walking, enjoying the sage and sunsets!

(Don’t worry, I’m slathered in SPF 50 at all times.)

Lola and Mary at Wiliams Lake, Taos, NM
Williams Lake was one of my favorite hikes despite the SNOW in the MIDDLE OF JUNE. I huffed my way up to 11,000 feet and then slid down the mountain on my soggy butt, because SLUSH. But the payoff was so worth it! And Mary Karlik is a total peach for tolerating me and rerouting us back to the trail every time I led us astray.

The Taos farmer’s market is fantastic (although I keep buying teaography and empanadas instead of vegetables). Last weekend we caught Curtis Stone filming, and I creeped awkwardly around until I could get a good pic of him. If you don’t know who Curtis Stone is, you need to up your Top Chef game. Best show on American television!

The food in Taos is also spectacular. Northern New Mexican dishes are gloriously spicy, and I’m attempting to try the chiles rellenos at every Mexican joint in town. This week, we drove out to a local brewery for a picnic in the mountains with a few glasses of the raspberry wheat ale.

It’s basically heaven out here.

Despite all the distractions, I’m actually working. I’m cracking away on Deadly Sweet, rebranded my whole website (ta-da!), and am juggling a few really great marketing and editing classes. Also finally mailed out a whole bunch of copies of Quanta Rewind and matching bookmarks.

 

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Next stop, Los Angeles!

I’ll be sad to leave Taos, but I need to start shopping for RWA dresses in the big city. The whole Ink Monster team is heading to the national conference in July. Cannot wait.

Happy summer, wherever you are!

<3 Lola

Another Exciting Monday… And Quanta Reset News!

Monday's Update from Lola with Quanta Reset News

I’ve been a busy bumblebee these past few weeks. A million things are going on and it’s been rough trying to balance them all with the ridiculous amount of time I’ve spent in the orthodontist’s chair.

But now only one last follow-up appointment is left because:

1. THE BRACES ARE OFF

Braces off 🎉 Braces off 🎉 Braces off 🎉 😀😀😀

A photo posted by Lola Dodge (@loladodge) on

I’m so happy!!! A friend told me that my teeth look perfect now—like American teeth. So I’m glad I can finally represent my country with my mouth? Also because:

2. It’s time to leave Thailand

It’s been fun. I’ve made friends, I’ve gotten my teeth tortured into shape, and I’ve eaten enough khao soi and coconut shakes to last a lifetime (or at least a few months). As much as I’ll miss Chiang Mai, I’ve had one too many massive cockroaches in my apartment the past few weeks and it’s time for a break from nature.

I’m just bummed that I won’t have time to see this movie. I’ve seen the trailer half a million times while sitting at the coworking space at the mall, and I feel called to share it with you all. It’s about a haunted classroom and it may be the best zombie film ever made:

3. Next stop: Los Angeles

I’m so excited to be heading back to LA! I get to hang with Aileen, finally meet her baby, and hopefully eat lots of donuts while I’m in town. I also get to reunite with The Nook—my #1 favorite working spot at Aileen’s house. Not sure if it’s weird to have a favorite spot in someone else’s home, but The Nook has a long list of fans—it’s just so cute and sunny!

The Nook is my Happy Place

The Nook is my Happy Place

4. Quanta

We’re signing up hosts for the Quanta Reset blog tour. Jump over to YA Bound if you’d like to join in on the fun : )

The Quanta Reset Blog Tour runs September 20th-27th, 2016, hosted by YA Bound

5. More Quanta

Aaaaand, hold tight for more Reset news. The book should be live on NetGalley by the end of the month, but subscribe to the Ink Monster Newsletter if you want to be the first to hear about it. You should definitely get on the list regardless, because I heard a rumor that Shattered Pack news is coming soon, too ; )

Not that I’m biased or anything, but Meredith’s story is awesome. If you’ve enjoyed the Alpha Girl Series so far, you’re going to love reading from her POV.

Shattered Pack (Alpha Girl Series, #6) by Aileen Erin, releases November 2016

Can’t wait for this book to come out!!

Have a lovely Monday wherever you are!

<3 Lola

Writing on the Road: Real Life as a Digital Nomad

Writing on the Road: Real Life as a Digital Nomad

Last year I blogged about digital nomads, wondering why more fiction writers don’t take up the call of the road. After a year bopping back and forth between Asia and the U.S., I want to update my thoughts and give you a peek into the reality of my life as a digital nomad.

In the abstract, ditching the 9-5 to travel and write full-time sounds like living the dream. Beaches! Exotic locations! So much inspiration all around! There’s a whole niche of travel bloggers trying to sell this dream, and they’re funding themselves by getting other people to buy in.

Here’s the real deal about the beaches and inspiration bit: 1) I hate sand. 2) Nothing is exotic. I feel more at home in Taipei than I do in Texas. And 3) Inspiration is great for a first chapter, but it doesn’t get a whole book finished.

I’m always posting my desks on Instagram. I get to write at some of the coolest cafes around Asia, but I’m guessing your corner Starbucks has a selection of equally flat and lovely tables to work at.

Words words words #amwriting

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The life I’ve chosen has tons of advantages–low cost of living, no cooking when street food is cheaper, and a level of cultural immersion that keeps my brain churning–BUT there are a few massive downsides.

1. Distractions. Today I should be writing, but I’m blogging and then I’m going to go to the Sunday market, because I want fried coconut puffs more than I want to sit down and work. Tomorrow I’m planning to write, but instead I could book a spa day for cost of a dinner at home. I could also play with elephants on the spur of the moment if I felt like it. That level of freedom is both exciting and dangerous.

2. Distance. I’ve talked about feeling distant from friends and family before, but being on a different timezone than everyone I’m working with makes accountability a big challenge. The twelve hour time gap puts me out of sync, and it’s real easy to let things slide. REAL EASY.

3. Self-discipline. Adding points 1 & 2, self-discipline becomes essential to being a successful digital nomad, and it’s something I struggle with daily. When I have a raft of distractions and everyone who could call me to task is sleeping… It’s not that I don’t want to write. It’s just that writing is a mental challenge, and there are so many things my instant gratification monkey would rather do instead.

Since last year, I’ve met a few fiction writers living in and traveling through Chiang Mai. Inevitably, they have a certain level of drive. They can shift aside the distractions and buckle down on whatever project is due. They’ve also built a foundation before booking plane tickets–either establishing a pool of freelance clients, or locking down another revenue stream. I also know of people who hit the road with no backup plan or set income. Those types tend to want the digital nomad lifestyle more than they want a specific career.

Real Life as a Digital Nomad: How much Pad Thai can you really eat??

That seems absolutely bonkers to me. There’s something to be said for the digital nomad experience if that’s what calls to you, but if you embark on the travel adventure of your dreams without a goal in mind… Temples and Pad Thai get boring eventually. Ask the locals. Or ask yourself–how often do you do touristy things or adventure around your home town? Once the wonder wears off, you find yourself in a routine, and if you don’t have a reason to get up in the morning, friends and home and familiarity may start to seem more compelling than musty hostels and a sea of interchangeable backpacker buddies.

I think my life is very much a ‘grass is greener’ situation. It sounds sublime that I get to travel and write and nothing else, and so many things about this lifestyle keep my engines purring, but it’s not all peaches and champagne. I have to book a trip for May and I’m dreading making the reservations. Can you imagine? I can go wherever I want, and I still don’t want to book because every trip means time lost in travel, sucky layovers, and an escalation of the mental battle between productivity and distraction. I’m not so jaded that I won’t have fun on that trip, but if I went back in time five years, I’d think the current me was crazy.

Yes, I can make you jealous with my pictures and spa days, but ultimately, this lifestyle involves sacrifices. I’m missing reunions and the baby showers and weddings of dear friends. I haven’t seen most of my extended family in years. This life was my choice and I’m not complaining, because I could go home this week if I really wanted, but it’s important to remember that living the dream means living A dream–not necessarily all the dreams at once. It’s also more work than the Instagrams would lead you to believe.

Real Life as a Digital Nomad: Tourists Everywhere!

As soon as you stop cropping out the tourists, the glamour starts to fade…

If you think being a digital nomad and working on your masterpiece novel (or your startup or budding freelance whatever career) sounds amazing, then all power to you, and please come have a Thai tea with me in Chiang Mai. Maybe this lifestyle sounds like a nightmare. Or maybe you’d love to try a few months abroad, but just can’t or are too afraid to get started. Fear not. The pages aren’t any easier to write on the other side of the ocean. Whether you’re sitting at your dining room table or at a hipster cafe in Seoul, the words don’t come any faster. Your problems definitely won’t disappear on the road, and as romantic as visiting Angkor Wat sounds, I’m guessing your fantasies of Cambodia don’t factor in a hoard of tourists poking you with selfie sticks. Not as glamorous as advertised.

That’s the reality of my life as a digital nomad. Join me or don’t! Just remember that life doesn’t improve on a curve proportional to the number of stamps in your passport. It’s all about the drive and dedication you bring to your work–whatever and wherever that is.

Now about those coconut puffs… ; )

Checking In from Chiang Mai–Quanta Reset is Coming!!

Hi from Northern Thailand! It’s 8 a.m and I’ve discovered the secret to productivity. Do you want to know???

Surprise. It’s ROCK HARD BEDS.

When I’m home in the US, I sleep on a cloud comprising several layers of down, more novelty pillows than you could count, and piles upon piles of snuggy blankets. My bed in Thailand is like sleeping on a rock. A boulder topped with one paper-thin sheet.

My hips are bruising from this nonsense, but I’m not changing a thing. Why torture myself, you ask? Because when I pop awake at 5 a.m. I am SO READY to get up and get to my computer. Staying in bed lazing around sounds like a miserable idea for the first time ever. As much as I miss the cloud bed, I’ve discovered that I’m happier being productive than I am being comfy.

Wooden desk chair = heaven compared to the flat torture sleeper.

Productivity is good for everyone. I’m reading lots of Shattered Pack and Cursed and finally getting back to work on Quanta Reset, which is a wonderful thing. The past few months were a bit rough at Dodge Ranch, so my mind has been twisted up like a ball of yarn scraps–now I’m FINALLY getting back to doing what I love and it feels amazing.

And the big news for you guys [[[drumroll]]]: the Quanta Reset cover reveal!!!! I can’t wait to share this one because it came out so SO COOL. I’d just show you now, but I’m not allowed thanks to a blood pact with that little blueberry of an Ink Monster mascot.

Bloggers, head this way to Xpresso Reads for the sign-up. The release happens February 16th and not a day later or my head will explode.

Please help me share the news! Force your friends to sign up. Get a 2/16 tattoo. Whatever you feel is appropriate ; )

Quanta Reset Cover Reveal

Forget Burning Season. NOISE POLLUTION.

It’s officially burning season here in Chiang Mai. The farmers in the countryside are burning off their fields for a very rational reason that I don’t know (something about rice fertility) and because CM is in a valley, the smoke gets trapped; since there’s no rain this time of year, all those schnasty particles keep floating around in the atmo causing mass hysteria among prospective tourists. Seriously. People in the forums I follow are panicking and talking about scrapping their international travel plans.

We’re just getting started, but so burning season isn’t that bad. We’ve been hovering in the 60s-80s in air quality, which is considered moderate.

Chiang Mai air quality in early burning season
 

I see the reason for the panic, given that most of the U.S. is all green all the time. My home town is hovering at a crisp, fresh 28 right now.

US Air Quality
 

But compared to the rest of Asia????

Asia Air Quality
There’s a 454 up in there. That’s like doing away with oxygen and breathing in coal-dust gelatin. Also why I have no plans to go back to China.

Since I’m sitting pretty over here with zero allergies or respiratory concerns, burning season is no big deal until it gets a lot worse than this. Which it will, but I’ll wear a mask and cope if/when that happens.

My bigger concern? Noise pollution.

I was sitting at my desk this morning and a buzz saw ripped into action across my alley at 8 a.m. In the few moments the saw paused I heard: several jets taking of and landing; a gong being pounded to death; at least two Thai advert trucks stuck in traffic, blaring songs and slogans; some sort of concert down the road with call and response action and rolling applause; the daily chorus of screeching breaks; and more motorcycles revving/drag-racing/breaking the sound barrier than I care to count.

Not exaggerating. Needless to say, I left the ranch to go sit at a cafe.

I’m not moving out by any means (not when the milk tea situation is so on point) but if I were ranking my annoyances, I’d put the noise pollution way above the environmental kind. Case in point: it’s Friday night, so I have to wear earplugs or I’ll get woken up by late-night karaoke…but I’m still keeping my window open.

Settling into Chiang Mai

I’ve been in Chiang Mai for a week and I’m mostly settled in. My time in Taiwan has definitely eased the transition into Thai life. The countries are similar in some ways and hugely different in others, but at least I know where to shop (Daiso for clothes hangers and cheap decor) and stop for snacks (7-11 for EVERYTHING).

Nancy Chandler walking map of Chiang Mai

My Nancy Chandler walking map of Chiang Mai, which shows all the vegetarian places in town–Hooray! Now I’ve got a lot of exploring to do!

I’m staying at a service apartment for the next three months. It’s pretty basic, but it’s clean and near the cafes I like so I can’t complain. And I really can’t complain because I showed up planning to walk around and ask to see rooms. The travel blogs told me this would be fine.

The travel blogs lied. Everyplace I wanted to go was booked.

Luckily I found Chiang Mai Buddy and they got me set up with a housing contract and figured out the details so I didn’t have to spend any more time walking in the sun. Because the sun is terrible. I’m already getting tan and you know I’m going to break out my parasol to kibosh that nonsense. Anyway, I’d definitely recommend their services for anyone stumbling onto this blog while researching Chiang Mai. It will save you a whole bunch of hassle…and I just don’t have that backpacker mentality, so I’m all about saving the hassle.

The past few days I’ve been testing out different cafes, trying to find the perfect spot (and the perfect Thai milk tea). I stick to the Nimman area but there are enough choices here to make me giddy with writer glee. So far Kaweh Cafe is my favorite place to work and CoffeeVilla@Nimman brews (mixes?) my fav Thai tea. I generally make my way to MAYA in the afternoons and log a few hours at CAMP. Or I skiv off in search of vegetarian curries.

Cafe life in Chiang Mai

My cafe life in Chiang Mai. Rustic and Blue is my mothership.

Whatever. I can do what I want. And when I do make it back to the states, I’ll be all hopped up on condensed milk and curry spice.

So far, I’ve been crazy productive (like writing almost 20k a week, productive). I’m hoping to type THE END on my NA project today or tomorrow…finally! It’s been running me ragged for months and months and months. I’ll still need to do some tweaking after my readers cut into it, but editing is the easy part for me. Getting the words on the page…not as easy. As a reward I’m going to spring for a Pop!Vinyl figurine from the store I pass every day. Haven’t decided which one yet. Maybe a Thor. Maybe a Loki. Leave me some suggestions in the comments!

I’ve also been working on promo for Angel. The newest volume in the Manhattan Ten series releases March 24th and all  preorder links are live (Amazon | B&N | iTunes). If you’re a book blogger interested in the series, drop me a message—always looking for more fab reviewers! And if you’ve been waiting for me to send it to you, it will be in your mailbox SOON! Promise : )